By Abhijit Phadke
This article describes the various factors that affect the prices of teak wood, so that a well-informed buying decision can be made. To start with, there are two ways to go about purchasing teak wood. The first method is what a timber trader follows, and the second one is for the end-customers who want to buy teak wood furniture.
1. Teak wood can be bought by traders in the form of uncut teak timber logs. It can be either forest wood with proper legalities in place, or plantation teak which is farm cultivated.
2. The end-customers can purchase teak timber from traders and hand it over to artisans for making custom-built furniture of their choice. This method is rarely followed these days. Most people find it convenient to directly purchase ready made teak wood furniture from the local furniture shops in their vicinity or from the branded furniture showrooms either online or offline.
Let's consider the first case where a trader buys teak timber logs.
The process involved is this.
1. Mature fully-grown teak trees are felled for their wood.
2. The logs thus obtained are sold by the log owners to the timber marts.
3. The timber marts sell it further on to it's customers who include builders and developers, interior decorators, carpenters, furniture shop owners, and in some cases directly to end-customers.
4. Prices of such teak wood are in Rs. per cubic feet. The cubic foot measure can be defined as a cube of wood that has length, breadth and height of 1 foot. In practice however the pieces of teak wood sold wont be in the form of cubes, so some calculations have to be done as described below.
For example, let's say that a block of teak wood is being sold at the price of Rs. 3500 per cubic foot. And let's assume that the block has dimensions of 8 inches x 9 inches x 12 inches then the cost will be calculated as:
Total cubic inches = 8 x 9 x 12 = 864 cu.inches.
and 1 cubic foot = 1728 cubic inches. (this is a fixed conversion equation for cu.feet to cu.inches)
So, if 1728 cu.inches costs Rs. 3500, then this block of teak wood will cost 864 x 3500 /1728 = Rs. 1750
Factors that affect the price of the wood
The price of teak wood depends on its origin and age.
There are two types in this. One is called old-growth teak, and the other one is plantation teak.
Old-growth teak wood (also called slow-growth or natural growth teak) is obtained from trees that have grown in a natural way (not farm-cultivated). For this to happen the climatic conditions should be suitable for the tree growth. Teak trees require a tropical climate and do not grow in all countries. Even in India, teak does not grow everywhere equally well. The best old-growth teak wood is obtained from the central and southern states of India, where the climate favours the growth of these trees. The age of these old-growth trees at the time of felling is around 14 years.
Given the high demand for teak wood, it is grown in other places too, using farm-cultivation methods. Teak Seedlings are planted and cared for using agricultural methods, and the teak wood is harvested after 7 to 9 years. Each full-grown tree yields around 10 to 12 cubic feet of teak wood, which sells for approximately 1.5 lakh rupees depending on its quality.
Old-growth teak wood is considered to be of a superior quality and its cost is higher than that of plantation teak. The costs are proportional to the tree age and the tree girth (circumference of the tree). The higher the age (the older the teak tree is), the more its wood will cost.
Teak wood prices also vary based on the teak variety.
Teak grows naturally in several Asian countries and each region provides timber of varying quality. The prices also vary accordingly. e.g. The cost of the popular Burma teak wood is different from that of Dandeli teak, and the cost of Nagpur teak is different from Malabar teak.
Add to this the processing cost
In the case of teak wood furniture, prices further increase because of the additional cost of processing the wood. This is similar to buying jewellery, where the jewellery making charges get added to the base cost of gold.
The type of work that is done by the artisan on the wood, also determines its price. Hand-carved and custom-built furniture costs more.
Distance is another important factor that affects the prices.
Teak wood is quite heavy and hence if the timber logs or the ready made teak wood furniture has to be transported over long distances to reach the customers, then the cost also increases. Cost is directly proportional to distance in such cases. e.g. For when furniture or timber logs have to be sent across continents, they cannot simply be dumped in an airplane's cargo unit. It has to be sent by sea route on ships which is time-consuming and costly. This is the reason why imported furniture (in every country) is always so costly.
Inspite of being so expensive, teak wood has always been in high demand because of its fantastic qualities. It looks beautiful with its straight grain pattern and rich golden brown colour, it is a strong hardwood, it does not rot or decay easily, it has a natural oil that resists termites and pests, and above all its a very durable wood that lasts across generations, in many cases more than a 100 years.